Recognizing & Facilitating Emotions

Moderated by Anita Vestal

 

Emotional content usually shows up with parties in a dispute resolution process. We know that emotions contain a great deal of information and we know that satisfying emotional issues is important for lasting resolution. As ADR professionals, what do we do with emotional expressions? When the ADR process is online, should one handle emotions differently than in a face to face session? Do we seek out the emotional content and if so, how?

 

Online mediation presents challenges in reading emotions, particularly when there is no video conferencing. In the Discussion Forum, we reflect on questions about our comfort level, skill, training and experience handling emotions during online mediation. Are you comfortable facilitating the feelings of the parties in mediation? Do you feel you have the training and skills to allow the parties to express their emotions? Is it worthwhile to allow expression of feelings or does it waste time?

 

To get the discussion started, let’s take a look at the facial expressions chart and try to identify what emotion is being expressed in each photo. Next let’s try to give some examples of ways to identify how one is feeling when we are not able to see the face and body, such as an audio conference without video or simply an email or discussion post.

 

 

Moderator Bio:

 

Dr. Anita Vestal has been practicing and teaching conflict resolution for 15 years, teaching ADR courses at Nova Southeastern University, Sullivan University, and Eastern Mennonite University.  As a researcher, she studied the role of emotions in resolving conflicts of young children and she currently trains teachers on emotional literacy and conflict resolution in addition to a mediation practice. Her recent books on the importance of emotional intelligence for both children and adults, include:

 

Vestal, A (2012). Making Friends with the F Word: Forgiveness. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/152327   ISBN 9781476356273 and

Vestal, A. (2009). Conflict Resolution in Preschool: A Model for Teachers and Children. Koln, Germany: LAP-Lambert Academic Publishing. ISBN 978-3-8383-1017-6

 

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Hi Cyberweek members,

I am feeling excited at the moment. Why? Opportunity to communicate. How do you know that I feel excited. I WROTE it. You do not see me, you see letters. And you see wrote in capitals. Am I shouting it aloud? You can ASK ME, to get the confirmation. Way of expression - image, text.

Another example is communication trough the SOUND. Loudness. Pitch. Duration. Breaks. Patterns. Dynamic.

Statement: Online mediation presents challenges in reading emotions, particularly when there is no video conferencing.

What we can do is to read the sound. Should online mediators have special training in music? How much we are aware of our hearing abilities. Active listening. How much we really LISTEN to each other? What information does sound provides?

Citation: ...audio conference without video or simply an email or discussion post.

Does audio conference requires at least basic knowledge about sound (audio)? Email and post are based on letters (images). Should we learn how to better recognize language patterns (sound-talk, letter-image) which will help us better understand one's expression? Should mediator have art trainings to better understand how we express ourselves? What is the role of art in alternative dispute resolution and online dispute resolution particular. The connection I make is emotion-expression-understanding. Next question is how much time mediator (should) devote to this process and issue.

Meet you in bright sounds,

Miloš Dilkić

Association Team for Education and Culture - TOK
Belgrade, Serbia

tok.info@yahoo.com

www.potragazablagom.rs

Great collection of faces here, showing some of the wide range of emotions humans express. I think it is relevant to note that as humans moved into the online communication space, they quickly worked to develop "emoticons" to try to mimic the various faces shown here. (Anyone want to try to recreate the image in emoticon-speak?)

I doubt that the emoticon vocabulary is anywhere near broad as the human face, but the drive to create it says something about the importance of expressions of emotions, yes?.  :-)

Dear Anita and cyberweek attendants,

There is no doubt that the expression of emotions in an online, text-based environment is different than in a face-to-face situation. This poses challenges, for sure. But i would like you to think about the benefits as well. After all, haven't people been sharing their deepest emotions in text-based form for centuries, in novels and love letters? 

What are the benefits of using text-based communication for dispute resolution processes? Why is it that people can share their deepest secrets on online discussion forums? Is it true that divorcees can discuss delicate and emotional matters better when they do not have to face each other?

Jelle van Veenen

Hi Cyberweek people!


I have learned a lot about the importance of connecting and communicating with people effectively in both my professional and personal life. While there are some obvious and major differences between a face to face conversation and one that takes place sitting at a keyboard, I do believe similar goals can be accomplished in the conversation if the matter being communicated about is form of dispute resolution.

I find that communicating in person about solving a dispute can have both advantages and disadvantages.  First, if the parties are unfamiliar, a face to face meeting gives the parties a chance to put a face with a name and feel out each others' personalities. This meeting can help each party predict how the other might behave in a negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. While most would find this meeting to be mostly advantageous to humanize the voice on the other end of the line or the signature at the bottom of letters/emails, a face to face meeting might also change the dynamic of what was once an impersonal relationship to now a recognizable face with feelings/concerns/emotions just like our own.  If the parties have a big business deal at stake, a face to face meeting may not change the dynamic enough to compel the parties to take into account the personal/human side of the parties, but, however, if the matter needing resolution has softer, more human, components, the parties might be more pressured to go softer on the other side and maybe give concessions they would not have otherwise considered if they would have communicated solely through email.

On the other hand, communicating a dispute solely through written correspondence might lead the parties to miss out on making a more creative "deal" in the end. While I am under the impression people are more blunt and direct with written correspondence because they can say and ask for their demands without having to deal with the other party's reaction immediately. This again has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that both parties feel more compelled to lay out all their demands on the table without holding back  due to emotional constraints. This definitely provides a good outline for demands and solid, honest, starting off point for discussion. The downside to this written dispute resolution is that it might take a lot of correspondence to reach an outcome.

In a perfect world, I believe the two methods should be combined. If the parties began with written correspondence, laying out their demands, sticking points, etc. the formalities are out of the way by the time the parties meet in person and can begin more humanized negotiations.

While I know a lot of emotion can get lost in written correspondence, I don't think it has to, necessarily. Email definitely allows for people to write less formally and even include =) after a sentence to make sure the people on the other end are getting the right idea. So, while I don't believe all hope of reading emotion is lost in online dispute resolution, I am still a proponent for settling disputes using all the information available to each party. Of course, I do believe there is a scale of "importance" when it comes to the matter involved. For instance, if the dispute needing resolution is about turning in a homework assignment or what time to show up for a meeting, this can easily be handled through email. However, if the matter is a divorce, custody issue, contract negotiation, etc, I believe the best way to get to a resolution is ending in person after starting with online correspondence laying out the concerns of each party.

To answer a question initially posed above, I do not think it is a waste of time to allow feelings and emotion to play a role in the resolution of a dispute. I believe most people do not feel as if a resolution has been reached until they can express everything they have wanted to say to the other side.

I think reading and considering emotions is most important in mediation and negotiation, as compared to arbitration, due to the fact that the parties have a chance to see what is important to the other side and why. Sometimes in mediation a party is more satisfied with an apology and showing of sympathy than they would be with a few extra dollars. This could be lost in translation in email correspondence without witnessing the first hand reactions of the parties to certain subjects in dispute. In negotiation, emotions are important for the same reasons. While arbitration is more structured, and binding, the process tends to feel more formal, and less of a conversation, so emotional responses are probably not given as much weight.

To respond to another question posed above (how to tell what another party is feeling/thinking without being able to see them or their reactions can be difficult through email or online, but again, not impossible. For instance, in an email negotiation, both parties have time to craft and detail their responses to each other. People can write about their feelings simply by adding in "I feel this element is necessary because _____" This sentence can accomplish almost the same thing in person. If the negotiation is taking place via live online chat, the parties may have less time and capability to craft their responses. This could make the conversation more realistic in some situations by eliciting real time more dramatic responses, or long pauses which both can send signals to the other side about how they are reacting to the conversation.

All in all I do believe online technology and communication should be utilized more than it should be avoided in dispute resolution. I am under the impression that the more communication that goes into a negotiation or mediation, the more well rounded the resolution will be.

I think emotion recognition in both yourself and being able to decode it in others is critical to being a successful conflict resolution professional.  Research has shown their are 7 universal basic emotions displayed through facial expressions: Anger, Contempt, Fear, Surprise, Happiness, and Disgust.  Knowing them can help you respond accordingly.

For text-based ODR, I can't find the link but I recall a company letting people create their own emoticons of their facial expressions to better and more accurately communicate with people.

To keep it brief, cue smelly face: :) I think emotions, both expressing them and decoding them, are just as important online yet can have their own unique variations compared to the "real" world.

Hi Mike,

you bring up the role of sound, language patterns and art in the expression of emotion and suggest that mediators might benefit from art and music training ... what a wonderful potential intersection. We know that many conflict resolution programs reside in the communications departments of universities and institutions. Do we know of crossovers between dispute resolution and art /music? Please share if you know of any resources.


Milos Dilkic said:

Hi Cyberweek members,

I am feeling excited at the moment. Why? Opportunity to communicate. How do you know that I feel excited. I WROTE it. You do not see me, you see letters. And you see wrote in capitals. Am I shouting it aloud? You can ASK ME, to get the confirmation. Way of expression - image, text.

Another example is communication trough the SOUND. Loudness. Pitch. Duration. Breaks. Patterns. Dynamic.

Statement: Online mediation presents challenges in reading emotions, particularly when there is no video conferencing.

What we can do is to read the sound. Should online mediators have special training in music? How much we are aware of our hearing abilities. Active listening. How much we really LISTEN to each other? What information does sound provides?

Citation: ...audio conference without video or simply an email or discussion post.

Does audio conference requires at least basic knowledge about sound (audio)? Email and post are based on letters (images). Should we learn how to better recognize language patterns (sound-talk, letter-image) which will help us better understand one's expression? Should mediator have art trainings to better understand how we express ourselves? What is the role of art in alternative dispute resolution and online dispute resolution particular. The connection I make is emotion-expression-understanding. Next question is how much time mediator (should) devote to this process and issue.

Meet you in bright sounds,

Miloš Dilkić

Association Team for Education and Culture - TOK
Belgrade, Serbia

tok.info@yahoo.com

www.potragazablagom.rs

Hi Bill,

I would love to see the facial images recreated as emoticons... not sure I have the art ability to do that... any volunteers?

Something of note I found in a research article about using emoticons in email messages is from a an article by Thompson & Folger (Effects of Pictographs and Quoting on Flaming in Electronic Mail). They say that using emoticons can reduce the perception of hostility for a tense message. 

Should we encourage ODR participant to use emoticons in their email correspondence? That could cut both ways, I suppose.


Bill Warters said:

Great collection of faces here, showing some of the wide range of emotions humans express. I think it is relevant to note that as humans moved into the online communication space, they quickly worked to develop "emoticons" to try to mimic the various faces shown here. (Anyone want to try to recreate the image in emoticon-speak?)

I doubt that the emoticon vocabulary is anywhere near broad as the human face, but the drive to create it says something about the importance of expressions of emotions, yes?.  :-)

Dear Jelle,

I love that you have reframed this from "challenging" to "creating an opportunity for intimacy". You bring up a few points that I have found to be true for online teaching/learning as well ... people disclose more intimate details online than in a face to face environment. 

When a mediator is comfortable with eliciting emotions, the potential benefits could be a treasure, such as the benefit of using online text to convey delicate, emotional matters as you suggest. Who has not written a love letter that was more eloquent that any words spoken to that loved one? Yes, encouraging expression of emotions through text can be an opening, an opportunity to create deeper understanding between the parties without the confrontation of a verbal response. Thank you for reminding us of the opportunity and the benefit of the written word to express emotions more freely than verbal communication.



Jelle van Veenen said:

Dear Anita and cyberweek attendants,

There is no doubt that the expression of emotions in an online, text-based environment is different than in a face-to-face situation. This poses challenges, for sure. But i would like you to think about the benefits as well. After all, haven't people been sharing their deepest emotions in text-based form for centuries, in novels and love letters? 

What are the benefits of using text-based communication for dispute resolution processes? Why is it that people can share their deepest secrets on online discussion forums? Is it true that divorcees can discuss delicate and emotional matters better when they do not have to face each other?

Jelle van Veenen

Jeff mentioned the universal emotions. Here is an interesting representation of those emotions in a colorful graphic found on www.6seconds.org

Attachments:

    Although I agree that there are a number of ways to convey emotion through online interactions, I think it is important to note that peoples’ words can often be misconstrued over the internet, no matter how innocuously they are phrased. What could be seen as a completely insignificant remark by one party can be regarded as a vicious attack by another party. Without any way to assess tone, it can be extremely difficult to determine precisely what the other party is feeling.

   While I do think that features such as emoticons can help to eliminate some miscommunication between individuals, I do not think that such simple, concrete entities can fully express the wide range of human emotions. People never feel just one type of emotion, especially in a situation like dispute resolution, and the resources available for expressing emotion online fail to account for this blend of emotions. Moreover, although people can simply directly state how they are feeling, it is not always easy to concretely articulate one’s own emotions. Emotions that may seem clear in face to face interactions are much more difficult to pin down through written text.

    Although emotion can be difficult to assess online however, it still has to be considered an integral part of dispute resolution. Disputes are spurred primarily by emotion, so simply disregarding emotion for lack of better means of communication is entirely out of the question.  I think, as Hannah said, that the more communication between parties, the better. Since emotion can be so easily misread, individuals mediating disputes online need to spend more time clarifying with both parties exactly what is being said, or checking that both parties are understanding their interaction in the same way, Although analyzing each statement can be tedious, I think it is necessary if mediators want to prevent miscommunication.

This is a great topic as online communication is becoming effective then sometimes picking up a telephone and calling someone. I think I'd like to break down your questions and focus on the ways that we do communicate using technology.  We have email which many of us use to describe thoughts on a problem or content.  Text message has become unlimited which allows us to send a quick text in hopes to get a quick response to something.  But these forms of communication can be seen as passive because there's limited effort to get a quick answer.  We could use UPPERCASE or bold or color to make strong points or highlight important points for our reader.  This could show signs of emotions because people interpret text/email edict very differently.  Like Svana said, this often allows individiuals to misinterpret what the composer is sharing.  I'd agree with the last line and saying that it is necessary at any time to ask a question for clarification.  I've often used the term "does this answer your question" which is an open-ended question allowing a yes or no answer.

 

I worked in sales where I was available by email but more so by phone.  Many times I needed to make a decision but after reading a responders text or email it may have confused me even more.  Therefore I picked up the phone and called to get clarification before proceeding.  I guess I wanted to reconfirm.  I may not have seen their face which again plays a role in emotions, but their voice can also tell you their emotion.  I think there also needs to be the ability to trust an email.  But when I say this, email gives us a back up documentation.  I had a supervisor who would sway back and forth on decisions, but when I had that email saying "yes"...i brought it up to cover my choice and reason why I did something.

Lastly I also worked in events where facial expressions say 1000 words.This could be seen as a more active approach.  Being the coordinator of events is also like performing on a broadway stage or being a fish in a fishbowl.  There's people watching you.  I've taken a leadership session where the presenter brought up being the duck in high stressed situation.  This concept references a duck because when we see a duck on water...it's smooth sailing.  However we don't see their web feet going 1000mph under water to allow them smooth sailing.  When we're the duck, we can smile and be happy like nothings wrong, but inside we can freak out.  In sum: being able to check our emotions in the environment we are in.  I remember this concept often when I'm dealing with high-stressful situations.  Being able to call a time out or breathe...allows our minds and heart rate to settle so our decisions won't be so rushed.

Your facial pictures above remind me of the poster "what's your feelings today".  Many of our peers around us deal with situations differently.  I think it really takes practice to be able to share emotions passive and actively.  It's easier when we know our audience but life doesn't deal us these cards often and we need to be able to neutralize our emotions.  So long that we remember to be the duck we can set aside personal and emotional connections to situations.

I think Svana's point is a good one here. The problems of misconstruing the meaning is very real, and it suggests to me that we need to do a good bit of "reflective typing" (like reflective listening) to check to see if we understand something that was written in the way that the person meant it. 

A related point about text that Svana's comment made me think of is the enduring nature of text. While a comment made in a face-to-face meeting might be problematic, it drifts off after it is said.  In contrast, a written email comment can be re-read time and time again, re-agitating the parties like a wound that won't heal. 

Svana Calabro said:

    Although I agree that there are a number of ways to convey emotion through online interactions, I think it is important to note that peoples’ words can often be misconstrued over the internet, no matter how innocuously they are phrased. What could be seen as a completely insignificant remark by one party can be regarded as a vicious attack by another party. 

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